We are seeking to recruit foster carers to meet the growing demand of children and young people living in care. There are currently more than 3,000 children and young people in foster care in Northern Ireland.
We are privileged to have many valued HSC foster carers currently providing safe and nurturing homes for the children and young people in our care.
Below we have profiled some of our current champion foster carers.
Could you foster? We would love to hear from you.
WATCH: Richard, one of our Foster Carers, talk about his experience fostering with HSC Northern Ireland Adoption and Foster Care:
Jean and Ivan
Jean and Ivan Henry have provided a loving and stable home for a number of foster children.
Jean says: “We have been fostering for over 20 years and in that time we have given many children a home through long-term placements. All of the children we have fostered have moved on either to go to work or university, and we keep in touch so we know how they are getting on with their lives.
“One of our foster children, Titto, came to us when he was 12 years old from India. He lived with us for several years until he started university. Titto and my son became so close that he was best man at my son’s wedding. He gave the most amazing speech; it was just lovely and very heartfelt. Titto even changed his surname by deed poll to ours. We are looking forward to seeing him soon to celebrate his birthday. He still comes home to visit us at least once a year, and we have been across the water to see him too. We could not be prouder of Titto and when he got a place at university in London, we took the ferry, drove him over with all his stuff, and got him settled in.
“Like any family we have had our ups and down, however the good times by far outweigh any bad ones. We have found fostering so rewarding; it really has enriched our lives and has been an amazing journey so far.”
Erica and Aidan
Erica and her husband Aidan decided to explore the option of fostering six years ago, and they have since gone on to provide a loving and stable home for John*.
Erica says: “John was referred to me when he was five years old and while I was working with him I became aware that he couldn’t return to his family and that he would need long-term foster care. I went home and talked to my husband about fostering John and Aidan said ‘we can look after him’. We had already reared our family and our son had flown the nest and we both wanted to give this little boy a happy home. The Western Trust were so helpful; we met John’s social worker who began the process, arranged training and support and we soon became John’s long-term carers. John moved in on 14 February 2014, a day I will never forget.
“There have been challenges as John has a learning disability and autism; he was unable to speak, he still drank from a bottle and didn’t eat solid food. John is a very different boy now; we taught him how to communicate, to eat food, to take medicine and to tell us if he needs anything. One day last week, I called him in from playing on his trampoline when dinner was ready. We were all sitting around the table and Aidan and I started to chat, then John started to giggle and held out his arm, which means he wants to join in the conversation too. So he started to talk about his toys, people he knows like my mother, who had come to visit. He really has come on in leaps and bounds.”
*John’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
Faye and Stephen
Faye and Stephen Neville from Moy, Co. Tyrone are a shining example of the commitment, passion and dedication of our HSC foster carers.
The have been fostering for over five years and say being long term foster carers for a sibling group has brought so much joy and happiness to their family.
The couple have four children of their own aged 24, 21, 19 and 18, all of whom live at home. The family opened up their home and their hearts to three young brothers, who at that time were aged four, three and two. Since then life has been a rollercoaster for the family, but they insist they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Five years on, Faye says they have no regrets about their decision to become foster carers. She says the boys, now aged nine, eight and seven, are “doing great” and are very much part of their family.
Explaining why they took the decision to become foster carers, she continued: “We always had this feeling that if something ever happened to Stephen and I then we would like to think that there would be someone kind enough to look after our children.
In the early days we didn’t know if we wanted to do long term, short term or respite fostering – the only thing we were sure of was that we wanted it to be a sibling group.
It’s traumatic enough for these young people to be removed from their birth families and taken into the care system without having to be separated from their siblings. The boys share a bedroom and as long as they’re together, they are all right. It gives them a sense of normality and security, they just have this unbreakable bond.
It has been so good to watch the children grow and progress and do well at school and enjoy all the wee groups they’re in. We actually really enjoyed our time together during lockdown. We made sure we had a good routine in place for home schooling and the boys just loved the new experiences they had after their school work, like sowing a wildflower garden, roasting marshmallows and having 3 o’clock tea each day with freshly baked cakes. We all looked forward to that!”
Stressing that the decision to start fostering wasn’t only taken by her and Stephen, Faye says her children were very positive about the move and have “really embraced” the fostering experience.
“We discussed it with them before we decided to do it. It’s very important that you discuss it with your own family because it does bring changes to your family unit,” she says. “They’re great with the children and really encourage them, it has kept them busy too!”
Stephen and Faye’s daughter Katie, 21, says she and her siblings didn’t know quite what to expect from the experience initially, but is delighted with how things have turned out.
“We all clicked like we had met before. It just seemed to work. Mum and Dad understood how to handle three young siblings very well and knew every trick in the book.
At the start I didn’t know much about fostering, until I began to learn how much we have influenced three young lives. How much they have grown and developed, gaining self-belief and happiness all under one roof.”
Faye and her family have received “great support” from their local Trust and its social workers since they began fostering. “I go to as much training as I can to help me care for the boys and I’m also happy to offer a listening ear to new foster carers. I find it’s good to talk to someone who is living the life and I try to tell them that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it.”